Friday, June 19, 2009
Tom FitzPatrick is a man on a mission. He wants to transform men, one by one, to become great fathers. He knows men have it in them to be successful in their home lives. A teacher, attorney and psychologist all rolled into one, Tom possesses the skills to guide men to leadership.
Leadership is not the word I typically think of when I reflect on what it means to be a dad. But after speaking with Tom, who is clearly passionate about fatherhood, I have new insights about the dynamics in a family that often lead dads to check out and leave the child rearing to moms.
Now, don't get me wrong, I know dads play a crucial role in the family. I'm also quite vocal about that when it comes to finding strong male role models in families where, for whatever reason, the father may be missing in action. But Tom's vision takes the roles of fathers to a whole new level of engagement.
Fathers often become passive and inactive when they feel disconnected, marginalized or alienated from the family. They become unanchored from the family. But rather than asserting themselves in a more dynamic, active role at home, they slink off to work, the golf course or wherever they feel more in control and empowered.
"Men come to me and they're confused," Tom said. "They're often sad, broken and have hit bottom."
In addition, Tom believes many men often feel that when it comes to being a good dad and husband, they think "I'm the only guy who doesn't know how to do this." But if Tom's practice is any indication, there are plenty of men out there who are disengaged.
According to Tom, the solution is to re-energize dads so they are more engaged and competent in their relationships at home. Tom believes every dad should learn to be a leader. "I have come to believe that what a family needs in Dad is leadership," he said.
Tom maintains that to be a leader, you have to have a vision. When dads lack a vision for their families, they have no plan or mission; instead, they amble from one day to another with any sense of direction or guidance. "If a man has a purpose and a mission and is on point with his mission, then he is not distracted when he trying to be and deal with his wife and children," Tom said.
To Tom, leadership is not tyranny or control but passion and purpose. It's about strength, conviction and service. Tom sees too little of that from dads today. So he is on a mission to cultivate fathers who know how to lead.
"This is my mission in my life: to give men more power," Tom exclaimed with his own sense of passion and purpose. "My goal is to bring men together so that they can create good fathering."
So once a month, Tom holds a Fathers Forum where dads come together to talk about fathering. When dads gather to discuss, share and support one another, they normalize what being a dad is for each other. They also get more power and passion in the process. "I like to see men come together to craft solutions, talk and learn," Tom said. "They support each other and build awareness about what it takes to become an engaged and dynamic dad. My job is to help men get more power, purpose, passion and peace in their lives."
Tom acknowledges that sometimes trying to bring men together to talk is like herding cats: It can be difficult and frustrating. But the fruits of his efforts are vast. Just ask kids about their dads and the way that they touch their lives.
Good dads are not tough to spot. They are like the mighty oaks that stand tall and strong. I've seen these types of good, strong and competent fathers and I've witnessed my fair share of dads who are disengaged from their families. There is no doubt that fathers with a sense of engagement and purpose raise children who have many more advantages and promise than those kids whose fathers are lackluster, disconnected or absent and where no solid male role model has been set in his place.
It's good to know there are men like Tom FitzPatrick in the world who care about the state of fatherhood and are using every ounce of their energy to reach out to dads to help them become strong, effective partners in child-rearing. So here's to you, Tom, for setting a path for dads to become a vital and vibrant part of their families.
And hats off and Father's Day salutations to all dads who understand what their involvement and nurturing does for their kids and families and who learn what it takes to be the best dads they can be. It's no small task to be a dad, but it has a huge impact that reverberates for generations because children with good parents learn how to be good parents themselves.
WRITTEN by Alyssa Martina at The Detroit News on June 19th, 2009